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  • Writer's pictureLushmuddled

An Evening With...Poonawatta 1880 Shiraz 2012

Updated: Apr 19, 2021


Okay, so you know how there are things which make you think how is this not more famous? Like having beers in the shower or that weird 80s movie you loved as a kid? Poonawatta, for me, is one of them. It has been great seeing them gain more followers over the years, but they are still a largely un-heard-of winery. Time and time, again I am just amazed by how much quality you get for your money across their range.


Now, this wine in particular comes from a vineyard planted in, surprise, 1880. This is a pre-phylloxera vineyard (which is very important!) and are amongst the oldest surviving Shiraz vines in the world. The vineyard is the oldest in High Eden, and was the oldest in the Eden Valley until the region was expanded to include Henschke and their Hill of Grace vineyard. With its historical importance as well as its quality, this is an absolute steal with an RRP of AUD$110. All this aside, Eden and Barossa are typically known for big and bold wines which often bulldoze through flavours. With this in mind, we put it through its paces.


A GLASS ALONE

The colour is dark, with russety edges from the little bit of age on the wine. The nose is aromatic, but not leaping out of the glass. Dark fruits, sandalwood and cupboard spices are what come to mind immediately, but then some horse saddle and jerky, with pot pourri and molasses. The palate is absolutely on the more savoury edge, with dried leaves and eucalyptus, prunes and fresh plums. Boot leather too, and dried black pepper and cocoa dust. Soft, soft tannins. I was expecting this to be an absolute monster, but there is such restraint and finesse and elegance in this wine, not a thing you expect at all.

ENTREE: VEGEMITE ON TOAST

Vegemite will absolutely mess up your palate, but I love it. Please address all your angry mail elsewhere. South Australian Shiraz is iconic and, following the logic of like goes with like, pairing with another Aussie legend makes sense. For the uninitiated, Vegemite a super salty and savoury spread. Imagine if they made butter from soy sauce. It also seems like you need to be Australian to actually enjoy this stuff. I digress.

The Vegemite brings out a lot more savoury leaf characters in the wine and, weirdly enough, some sweeter forest berries. That saltiness and umami definitely bring out a lot more fruitiness, a bit like adding salt to chocolate. It's not a brilliant pairing, but it's fairly harmonious. I'm honestly surprised by how well it works - I expecting the wine to be destroyed utterly. B+

VEGAN OPTION: EGGPLANTS STUFFED WITH BOLONGESE MUSHROOMS, RADICCHIO

The bitter leaves really bring out the tannin in the wines – it feels so much bigger, bolder and firmer. What a change! The flavours of this dish are so delicate and deep, and it honestly seems like the wine is in its element, effortlessly weaving itself around the mushroom and tomato, but meeting the pepper and spice head on. Absolutely wonderful. It also brings out more depth and breadth and weight, and a little more fruit too - fresh plums and blackberries. Super moreish combination.

DRY AGED RIBEYE AND ROAST VEGES WITH PEPPERBERRY SAUCE

This was my first time having dry aged beef. My god, what a revelation. Looking at my notes, I just see the word TANNINS!! I was clearly very excited. The richness of the beef definitely made the TANNINS!! come through which gently stripped away the fat of the steak. The pepperberry worked beautifully too, its intensity found a really nice spot in the mid-palate of the wine. So much more texture, oak and savouriness came through with this dish. It is honestly amazing to see just how much one wine can change through an evening.

DESSERT: TASMANIAN CHEDDAR AND BAROSSA BLUE BUFFALO

Okay, so at this point I had thought that the wine had really given us all it had and there was nothing left for it to reveal. But, somehow, it seems that the cheese really woke it up again. The cheddar brought back a lot of freshness and vitality, like breathing new life into it. It just felt so much more fruit focused. The fattiness and sharpness of the cheese covered the more savoury elements, and shone a light on the blueberry and raspberry elements in the shiraz. The blue buffalo did the same, but in a more mellow way. The creaminess of the cheese rounded things out and softened the wines body. Throughout the cheese course, the wine felt calm and collected and svelte.

ALL IN ALL I am honestly amazed by how much this wine gave us over the course of the evening. It opened up so well with the food, and in different ways too. I'm quite staggered by how much the same wine changed with each dish. It is super elegant, and not at all what the wine drinking world expects from the Barossa/Eden regions, which is exactly why it's amazing. It marries elegance and weight, power and restraint with such ease – it's a wonder why there aren't more Barossa winemakers doing this. This is so much more modern in a sense. If you're looking for a big, angry Shiraz you can match with your cigar, this is likely not for you. It is much more deft and feminine. I was expecting a monster. I did not find one. This wine is absolutely worth the money, and great introduction to what triple-figure shiraz shoul be all about.

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